I confess I have been cruel in the pages of this blog in poking affectionate fun at my ex-pupil Stephen Hawking and his somewhat slow mental processes. But old habits die hard. Notoriously, I do not suffer fools at all well, so you will imagine how frustrating it was to me, some sixty years ago, to find myself appointed Stephen's private tutor by his anxious parents, who were naturally fearful lest Stephen grow to be an adult version of the dunce he had appeared throughout his unimpressive childhood. I did my best, as can be seen by his success, such as it is, but sows ears are sows ears. To think what he might have achieved, with my guidance, had he more natural ability.
To relieve the tedium and frustration of our lessons I often used to rib him on those many occasions upon which he failed to appreciate some point I was attempting to press upon him. The humour was largely one-sided I regret to say, as Stephen has no sense of humour whatsoever. I remember him once asking me to explain the chain of reasoning that had led me to develop the concepts of asymmetric boson exchange- the idea that paved the way to what became known as the Grand Unification Theory. Oh it was just a GUT feeling, I said. Characteristically he didn't get the joke, until it was explained to him. (Three times, I recall.)